Jamie Metzl: Is Kim Jong Un More Dangerous than His Dad?

by PSA Staff | November 12th, 2014 | |Subscribe

PSA Board Director and former Clinton administration National Security Council official Jamie Metzl weighs in on the changing calculus for the North Korean leadership. For further information about Kim Jong Un, check Dr. Metzl’s CNN commentary.

North Korea’s Changing Calculus

It is no coincidence in my opinion that American detainees Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller were released by North Korea just as President Obama is arriving in Beijing for the APEC Summit. With North Korea-China relations more strained than they have been in years, the US moving towards a potential deal with Iran, the North Korean economy in shambles, and a resolution just being introduced to the UN General Assembly calling for North Korea’s leaders to be referred to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, Kim Jong Un and his cabal are being squeezed as never before. Absolute terror remains a very effective means for North Korea’s leaders to maintain control of their population, but it’s hard to see how the status quo can be maintained for too long. It may be that North Korea sees this too, and has come to realize both that the costs of its global pariah status is increasing and that an Iran-like deal (where they negotiate over a long time and ultimately give up enough of their nuclear program to make the world happier and secure aid but not enough to limit deterrence) could be to their advantage. Don’t expect a Burma-like about face any time soon, but a lot seems to happening in North Korea and Asia more generally (including the new Xi Jinping-Vladimir Putin alliance) that will pose new challenges to America and our allies, but could also create new opportunities.

Russia Violates International Law & Complicates International Priorities

by PSA Staff | April 29th, 2014 | |Subscribe

Gregory Gleichauf is a foreign affairs intern at Partnership for a Secure America. He currently attends James Madison University.

Russia Violates International Law & Complicates International Priorities

“I was in the middle of a phone call—I won’t tell you with whom—but with a prime minister from a country somewhere, and in the middle of it, I swear to God, the phone call got dropped twice while we were talking, so we had to reconnect and that’s why I’m late and that’s modern communications, I guess.” Even before he had gotten to the substance of his presentation, Secretary of State John Kerry had hinted at an underlying theme. On March 18, the Dean Acheson Auditorium of the U.S. State Department was filled with college students who had gathered to hear Secretary Kerry’s presentation entitled ‘Making Foreign Policy Less Foreign’ where he addressed some of the major issues facing American foreign policy today. The Secretary showed that even though the world has become more interconnected through globalizing forces, there are still countries that operate as he described as “on the wrong side of history.”

Innovations during the past century and into today have toppled barriers that inhibited greater international cooperation and connectivity among countries with mutual interests. Technology now allows for a Philadelphia corporation to talk with a partner in London in real time. With transportation advancements, a plane can leave Miami and land in Madrid just hours later. With these and other major developments, doors have opened to allow a greater and more rapid flow of culture, ideas, information and commerce that help bring the world closer together. With this increased cooperation and interdependence, enforcement of international law became a necessity to govern the workings of the world.


Still No Sanity in Nuclear Budgeting

by PSA Staff | March 7th, 2014 | |Subscribe

Erica Fein is currently working with Women’s Action for New Directions as a nuclear weapons policy officer. She is an alumnus of PSA’s Congressional Partnership Program. This piece originally appeared on WAND’s tumblr page. 

Still No Sanity in Nuclear Budgeting

The President’s budget release is a perfect time to think about our national priorities over the coming years: Do we want to invest in programs to keep America vibrant, well-educated, and healthy, or do we want a hollowed-out America where spending on expensive and unworkable weapons systems take precedent?


Ukraine a Victim of Weak Western Allies

by PSA Staff | March 7th, 2014 | |Subscribe

Paula J. Dobriansky, a senior fellow at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, was under secretary of State during the George W. Bush administration. She is also a former member of PSA’s Board of Directors. This article was co-authored by David Rivkin. The article was originally published in USAToday.

Ukraine Must Wish it Had Kept its Nukes

The world seems to have forgotten that Ukraine began its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 as a major nuclear power, possessing the world’s third largest nuclear force, more powerful than Chinese, British and French forces combined. That capability gave Ukraine great foreign policy leverage with Russia and other countries.

No doubt, Ukraine probably wishes that leverage was still available today to resist the aggression of Russian President Vladimir Putin.


What are the Benefits of a CTBT?

by PSA Staff | January 22nd, 2014 | |Subscribe

Jenifer Mackby is a Senior Adviser at Partnership for a Secure America. She worked on the negotiations and implementation of the CTBT and has served in senior positions at a number of international organizations focusing on nuclear, biological, and conventional weapons issues. Mackby is the co-author of several books on these subjects and has appeared in The New York Times, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and National Defense University publications.

What are the Benefits of a CTBT?

While waves of generations in many countries have fought for a treaty to ban nuclear weapon test explosions, the U.S. Congress has been divided on the issue in recent decades. The Senate rejected the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in 1999 by a vote of 51-48, putting it on the same side of the street as those it finds most unsavory– North Korea, Iran, Pakistan. In a 2009 bipartisan Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the U.S., the CTBT was the only issue on which they could not agree. However, given new political realities and new scientific findings about verification capabilities, many in the national security community now support the treaty and believe it should be re-visited.


Remarks by Senator Sam Nunn to the American Nuclear Society

by PSA Staff | January 13th, 2014 | |Subscribe

Sam Nunn is the Co-Chairman and CEO of the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) and former US Senator from Georgia. Mr. Nunn is a member of PSA’s Board of Advisors. This speech was originally published on NTI’s website.

Remarks by Senator Sam Nunn to the American Nuclear Society

Thank you, Jim Rogers, for your introduction and for your outstanding leadership.  I particularly want to thank Jim and all gathered here today for the work of this Society – helping the world benefit from the peaceful uses of nuclear science.

On this Veterans Day, I would also like to recognize one of our nation’s most outstanding public servants and veterans, former Senator Pete Domenici.

I am delighted to join George Shultz, who addresses every challenge with energy, optimism, keen intellect and wisdom.  He is always looking to the future – with one exception.  When George attended Henry Kissinger’s 90th birthday party, he reflected, “Ah, Henry — to be 90 again!”  I also thank Sid Drell for proving many times that a brilliant theoretical physicist can make a profound empirical difference in the security of his country and the world.

All Americans should be grateful for the remarkable work that the people in this room have done to improve and ensure safety and efficiency in the nuclear field.  Preventing accidents is absolutely essential.  The future of nuclear energy depends equally on security:  preventing the theft of weapons-usable materials—either highly enriched uranium or separated plutonium—that could lead to a terrorist nuclear attack.  Nuclear energy also depends on avoiding a dangerous future where a state acquires technology for peaceful purposes, then uses it for nuclear weapons.  Safety, security and nonproliferation are the three key links in the chain to assure the benefits of the atom for humanity.


When Iran Gets the Bomb

by PSA Staff | December 2nd, 2013 | |Subscribe

The author, Christina Vachon, is a graduate student at George Washington University where she is pursuing her Master’s degree in International Affairs with a concentration in International Security Studies.  She is currently an intern at the Partnership for a Secure America and has a research interest in security policy in the Middle East.

When Iran Gets the Bomb

Even though a short term deal with Iran has been reached, the US should prepare for the chance that Iran will cheat.  As talks continue toward a long term agreement, the US should assess what Iran, the Middle East, and the world will look like if Iran gets the bomb.  There is a lack of consensus on what happens if and when Iran gets the bomb.  Due to the uncertainty that exists about Iran and its program, continued diplomatic efforts are important in order to gain more information about the situation, to better relations, and to prepare for a nuclear Iran.  It is important though that all options remain on the table in order to protect US interests.


Congress’ Iran Policy: Short Sighted and Irrational

by PSA Staff | August 13th, 2013 | |Subscribe

Jayson Browder is a decorated Air Force and Iraq Veteran. A recent graduate of Fordham University, Jayson was named a National Finalist for the Harry S. Truman Scholarship in 2012 and was recently awarded the William J. Fulbright Scholarship for 2013 to Turkey. Currently Jayson holds a position as a Military Legislative Assistant for Congressman Beto O’Rourke in the United States House of Representatives. This article originally appeared on PolicyMic.

Congress’ Iran Policy: Short Sighted and Irrational

Clear thought, rational thinking, and innovative ideas are desperately needed in the 113th Congress. Unfortunately, a large number of members of the House of Representatives have let short-term priorities and easy political points cloud their judgment. This has made for some poor and unfortunate votes that, for some partial short-term gains, will have long-term repercussions for the United States and our allies abroad. Examples of this include the failure to pass a budget for four years, the failure to solve the sequester, the failure to solve the debt ceiling, and most recently, the votes to place more stringent sanctions than ever on Iran.


My Personal Journey at the Nuclear Brink

by PSA Staff | June 24th, 2013 | |Subscribe

William J. Perry is a member of  the PSA Advisory Board and was the 19th US Secretary of Defense from 1994 to 1997. He is the Michael and Barbara Berberian Professor at Stanford University. He is also the co-director of the Nuclear Risk Reduction initiative and the Preventive Defense Project at the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC). This article  was originally published in the European Leadership Network.

My Personal Journey at the Nuclear Brink

I have held two different positions in the US government: the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, in which I was responsible for developing and producing all of America’s weapons, including our nuclear arsenal; and the Secretary of Defense, in which I was responsible for all of our country’s military operations. But for the last seven years I have devoted most of my time to the Nuclear Security Project, whose goal is to reduce the danger of nuclear weapons, and ultimately to eliminate them. Many of my colleagues have been incredulous and have asked me how, having spent so much of my career working with nuclear weapons, I could be pursuing the goal of eliminating them.

This is the story of how I arrived at that decision. The story is told using six pivotal experiences in my life, and the lessons about nuclear weapons that I drew from those experiences.

The first experience occurred when I was only 18, serving in the US Army of Occupation in Japan. I was stunned when I saw the ruins that had  been the great city of Tokyo. Then I was sent to Okinawa, where the last great battle of World War II took place – a battle that resulted in more than 200,000 deaths and left the entire island in ruins. I can still remember my shock as our LST landed at Naha, the capitol city of Okinawa. Not a building was left standing; the survivors were living in rubble. So at the tender age of 18 I saw firsthand the devastation of the final six months of World War II, and I reflected that comparable devastation had been inflicted on Hiroshima by just one bomb.

MY FIRST LESSON: One atomic bomb in one instant can inflict the same catastrophic damage that in World War II required tens of thousands of bombs delivered over many months. Even at 18 I understood that this changed everything.

After I completed my Army tour, I went back to college to get a doctoral degree in mathematics. While I was still working on my degree, the Soviets announced a successful H-bomb test. This really caused me to stop and reflect: An atomic bomb has the destructive power of a thousand of the largest conventional bombs; a hydrogen bomb has the destructive power of a thousand atomic bombs. So in less than 10 years mankind increased its destructive ability by a thousand times a thousand, or a million times – it was truly beyond anyone’s ability to comprehend so great a change in so short a time. But I did understand that the danger these new weapons posed to the world was transcendental.

When I completed work on my PhD I took a job with a defense laboratory that developed electronic warfare systems. One of their tasks was designing a missile defense system to defeat the ICBMs then being built by the Soviet Union, and my first assignment was to calculate the effectiveness of such a system. My calculations showed that a “jamming” system would be “successful”; that is, it showed that it could be expected to reduce the instant deaths from a medium-sized nuclear attack from 75 million to only 25 million (not counting the tens of millions more who would die in the weeks to follow).

SECOND LESSON: There is no acceptable defense against weapons as destructive as nuclear weapons – we must instead work to prevent their use.


While working at this laboratory, I also served as a technical advisor to the Defense Department and CIA. One fall day in 1962 I got a call from the Deputy Director of the CIA, asking me to come to Washington to consult on an urgent technical problem. When I arrived there the next morning I was stunned to be shown pictures taken by a U-2 of a Soviet missile deployment underway in Cuba. This was my first exposure to what came to be called the Cuban Missile Crisis. The next eight evenings I worked with a small team analyzing data collected that morning in order to have a report ready for President John F. Kennedy the next morning. I also listened to the President’s speech to the American people with its stark warning: “…will be met with a full retaliatory response by the US on the Soviet Union…” I understood exactly what a full retaliatory strike meant. Indeed, every day I went to the analysis center I thought would be my last day on earth. And I still believe that we avoided a nuclear holocaust as much by good luck as by good management.

THIRD LESSON: Despite our best efforts, a nuclear war could occur by miscalculation, and it would destroy our civilization.

In 1977, I accepted a Pentagon appointment as the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering. One night during my tenure there, I was awoken by a telephone call at 3am. The watch officer at NORAD told me that his computers were showing 200 missiles on the way  from the Soviet Union to the US. Never  will I forget that phone call – it is still as vivid as if it had happened last night. Fortunately the general had the good sense to recognize that this was a false alarm, and he was calling me to help him figure out what had gone haywire with their computers.

FOURTH LESSON:  Despite our best efforts, a nuclear war could occur by accident, and it would destroy our civilization.

In 1998, India and Pakistan – countries that had fought three bloody wars since World War II – each conducted nuclear tests. They still remain mortal enemies, and the cause of their prior wars – the ownership of Kashmir – is still not resolved. Tensions are high in this region and the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai are a reminder of how volatile the situation remains.

FIFTH LESSON:  Even with the Cold War over, a regional nuclear war is all too likely—one that could easily spread to other countries.          

A few years later, we all witnessed 9-11. As I watched the horror unfold on television, I could only think: What if the terrorists had a nuclear bomb? Up until then terror groups carried out attacks primarily to gain public attention to their cause. Most security scholars believed that terrorists would not attempt mass murder on innocent people, fearing that this would turn the world against their cause. 9-11 radically changed that thinking. Al Qaeda stated clearly that their goal was to kill millions of Americans and Western Europeans, in vengeance for the Muslim deaths they attributed to the West. And their ultimate weapon in such retribution would be a nuclear bomb – if they could get their hands on one.

SIXTH LESSON:  A nuclear terrorist attack would cause unimaginable economic, social, and political chaos, and deaths 100 times greater than those on 9-11.

Einstein famously said: “The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything – save our modes of thinking; we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.” But my  thinking, influenced powerfully by those experiences, did  change, slowly but inexorably. Now I am trying to influence “our modes of thinking.”


In 1994, I became the Secretary of Defense and I made my top priority reducing the dangerous nuclear legacy of the Cold War. During my term in office we dismantled about 8,000 nuclear weapons and helped 3 countries – Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus – go entirely non-nuclear. I made four separate trips to Pervomaysk, Ukraine – which had been the largest and most modern of the Soviet Union ICBM sites – to oversee the dismantlement there. On the first visit I saw them take off the warheads. On the second visit I saw them scrap the missiles. On the third visit I saw them blow up the silos. And on the fourth visit I joined the Ministers of Defense of Russia and Ukraine in planting sunflowers in the field that had once been a deadly missile site.

We are all safer because of those actions, and I am proud of the role I played in them. But many tens of thousands of nuclear weapons still remained. So in January, 2007, I joined George Shultz, Sam Nunn, and Henry Kissinger in the first of a series of op-ed articles in the Wall Street Journal calling the world’s attention to the grave danger posed by nuclear weapons today, proposing steps to reduce that danger and ultimately to eliminate them. Our articles and subsequent meetings provoked an outpouring of support from leading citizens around the world. Informally known of the “gang of 4,” we formalized our ongoing efforts as the Nuclear Security Project and are working in cooperation with theNuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), co-chaired by Sam Nunn and whose board members include Des Browne and myself.

Other “gangs of 4” were formed around the world, each of whom wrote op-eds in their own country. In particular, an especially robust group was formed in the United Kingdom, which has taken the lead in organizing the European Leadership Network (ELN). The ELN has been active in raising public awareness of nuclear dangers through conferences and, most recently, by sponsoring the publication of articles and research on its website.

I was surprised and pleased by this international support for reducing nuclear dangers, but I also understand that such unofficial actions can only go so far. The actions that can make a real difference must be taken by governments, and up to that point no governments had responded. Then in April, 2009, just two months after his inauguration as President of the US, Obama delivered his now-famous speech in Prague, which included the phrase: “I state clearly and with conviction the commitment of the US to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” After Obama’s Prague speech, governments started to take some constructive actions. The most notable actions were the New START – a treaty between the US and Russia reducing the number of deployed nuclear weapons and establishing means for verifying those numbers; and the first two Nuclear Summit meetings – where about 50 heads of state met to establish better means of controlling fissile material around the world.

For a few years I believed that we were really beginning to deal with the deadly nuclear legacy of the Cold War. But in 2011 that progress and forward momentum began to stall out and even reverse. Russia and China are building new nuclear weapons and their delivery systems. North Korea is building a nuclear arsenal and Iran appears to be following in their footsteps. India and Pakistan continue to build more fissile material and to expand their nuclear arsenals, including “battlefield nuclear weapons.”

Besides these discouraging developments overseas, the American Senate still has not ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and the US and Russia have not moved forward on a follow-on to New START, as planned, since Congress shows no sign of being willing to support further initiatives in this area. Their disinterest, I believe, is a direct reflection of their constituencies. The American people simply do not understand the danger  they face today from nuclear weapons – they believe that nuclear dangers ended with the end of the Cold War. Their children, thankfully, are no longer going through “duck and cover” drills at school; thus, the danger must have passed.

But the dangers from nuclear weapons today are not theoretical. They are real – and they are grave. It is true that the likelihood of a nuclear war by accident or by miscalculation has decreased with the ending of the Cold War; but the likelihood of nuclear terrorism or a regional nuclear war is increasing every year. When citizens understand the dangers of nuclear weapons today, the great majority of them will call for actions to reduce those dangers. But since these dangers are not understood  by most of our citizens, the needed actions are not being taken, and we are drifting towards a nuclear nightmare. Only a comprehensive education program can stop that drift. The ELN is taking the lead in conducting such programs and their website will play a key role in that effort. NTI and the Nuclear Security Project in the US, inspired by the example of the ELN, is also moving forward to form a comparable network of interested leaders and scholars in North America.

As a part of my efforts in this field, and with the sponsorship of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, I am writing a book whose main themes I have summarized in this paper. I am also starting an educational program with courses, workshops, and social media content aimed at high school and college students, as well as young professionals just beginning their careers. Even as I do this, I understand that mitigating the nuclear dangers the world faces today may, in fact, seem impossible. But I choose to follow this path, believing as President John F. Kennedy did: “Our problems are manmade; therefore they can be solved by man.” And, I would add, women, too.

Assessing the Nuclear Cop

by PSA Staff | May 22nd, 2013 | |Subscribe

Reviewed by: Andrew K. Semmel is the Executive Director of the Partnership for a Secure America. He is also president of AKS Consulting, whose clients include the International Atomic Energy Agency. This article originally appeared in the May 2013 issue of Arms Control Today, and has been reprinted with the permission of the Arms Control Association.

Detect, Dismantle, and Disarm: IAEA Verification, 1992-2005
By Christine Wing and Fiona Simpson
United States Institute of Peace Press,
2013, 184 pp.

When the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) entered into force in 1970, it included a provision designating the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as its verification arm. When the IAEA was created in 1957, its principal purpose was to promote the use of nuclear energy for civilian purposes. Over the years, however, its role has changed.

Today, its more-visible function is to provide the international community with assurances that countries using nuclear science and nuclear materials are not using them to pursue weapons programs. Because of its expanded role in verification, largely through on-site inspections, the IAEA has joined the NPT as one of the two key anchors of the nuclear nonproliferation regime.


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All blog posts are independently produced by their authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of PSA. Across the Aisle serves as a bipartisan forum for productive discussion of national security and foreign affairs topics.